People often say: “Wow, it’s so incredible that you’re doing this at such a young age,” or “You’re so brave”. Actually, I’m doing what I love. I have a fire for Jesus and a fire for youth ministry. But just because I love it, doesn’t mean that it’s easy.
Recently at college we learnt about boundaries. This is such a difficult thing to put into practice when you’re the same age as the young people that you are leading. Sometimes it’s as if I have multiple hats: my ‘Rebecca, one of the youth’ hat and my ‘Rebecca, one of the youth leaders’ hat. As one of the youth, I can go to any of my friend’s house for a sleepover, I can sit hugging my friends, I can have a serious chat with someone and the conversation is completely confidential. If my friend is crying and wants to sit in private with me, then of course I’d say yes; I’m their friend. However, as a youth leader I often stop and find myself asking myself whether what I’m doing is responsible - if it goes against the safeguarding policies and whether it’s breaking the boundaries I should have set as their youth leader. It’s not as simple as just deciding which hat I’m going to wear that night; I can’t swap and change depending on the situation.
Doing what I’m doing is difficult when the enemy is speaking lies to me and my faith wobbles. It’s difficult to be in a place of influence, sharing about Jesus and his relentless love with the young people when I’m personally questioning it myself.
Sometimes I want to be the young person who sits in the corner, withdrawn and crying. Other times I want to be the young person who is hyper and dances on the pool table. It’s difficult to be a young person in the shoes of a youth leader.
It’s also very difficult to lead my friends. For example, a couple of weeks ago my friends were all outside cooling down because the youth venue was like a sauna and I had been asked to bring the young people - my friends - back inside. They were playing a game that they wanted to finish, but equally, I had a task that I wanted to achieve, especially with it being my first week in my placement. I didn’t want to sound bossy or big-headed with my new ‘youth leader’ title, but I also didn’t want to fail my task and ask for help.
You won’t get on with everyone you meet. Sometimes there’s a hiccup that causes a falling-out between you and another person. If this happens, it can be very difficult to ‘wear the youth worker shoes’. The feeling of hurt and childish upset can cause you to want to tell your best friend (who is in the youth group) what’s happened, and not talk to the young person who you’ve had a disagreement with. However, it’s vital as a youth worker, but also as a Christian young person, to think a couple of things through first: has this situation been blown out of proportion? Is there a sorry which needs to be said? Do I need to let go and let God in?
It’s difficult to be a young person in the shoes of a youth leader
It can also be difficult if your best friend falls out with another person in the youth group. Again, it’s vital not to be childish, take sides, gossip or stir the situation, but step into the ‘correct pair of shoes’ and ask if there’s anything you can do to help or whether you should go to another youth leader about it.
Plenty of positives
Being both a young person and a youth leader is extremely rewarding. I get to spend a couple of hours every few Sunday mornings with the younger youth and tell them stories and play games. I get to hear about how their school life is and I get to help guide them. It’s so rewarding when they look forward to it being my week on the rota.
My youth group is like a huge family unit, from the youngest teenager to the oldest leader, and it’s so great to be a part of that, both as a young person and as a youth leader. It’s also such a blessing to be able to study what I feel called to at such a young age. It’s such a blessing to have the support that I have from my friends, family and church. Through the difficulties, I’m loving it.
Rebecca Rammell is studying youth work at Bristol Bible College and doing a placement at St Peter’s Baptist Church in Worcester